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THE memorable heroic genealogy of the Eakids establishes a fabulous connection between Aegina, Salamis, and Pithia, which we can only recognize as a fact, without being able to trace its origin.

Eakus was the son of Zeus, born of Aegina, daughter of Asopus, whom the god had carried off and brought into the island to which he gave her name: she was afterwards married to Aktor, and had by him Menoetius, father of Patroclus. As there were two rivers named Asopus, one between Phlius and Sicyon, and another between Thebes and Plataea—so the Aeginetans heroic genealogy was connected both with that of Thebes and with that of Phlius: and this belief led to practical consequences in the minds of those who accepted the legends as genuine history. For when the Thebans, in the 68th Olympiad, were hard-pressed in war by Athens, they were directed by the Delphian oracle to ask assistance of their next of kin: recollecting that Thebe and Aegina had been sisters, common daughters of Asopus, they were induced to apply to the Aeginetans as their next of kin, and the Aeginetans gave them aid, first by sending to them their common heroes, the Eakids, next by actual armed force. Pindar dwells emphatically on the heroic brotherhood between Thebes, his native city, and Aegina.

Eakus was alone in Aegina: to relieve him from this solitude, Zeus changed all the ants in the island into men, and thus provided him with a numerous population, who, from their origin, were called Mylmidons. By his wife Endeis, daughter of Cheiron, Eakus had for his sons Peleus and Telamon: by the Nereid Psamathe, he had Phokus. A monstrous crime had then recently been committed by Pelops, in killing the Arcadian prince, Stymphalus, under a simulation of friendship and hospitality: for this the gods had smitten all Greece with famine and barrenness. The oracles affirmed that nothing could relieve Greece from this intolerable misery except the prayers of Eakus, the most pious of mankind. Accordingly envoys from all quarters flocked to Aegina, to prevail upon Eakus to put up prayers for them: on his supplications the gods relented, and the suffering immediately ceased. The grateful Greeks established in Aegina the temple and worship of Zeus Panhellenius, one of the lasting monuments and institutions of the island, on the spot where Eakus had offered up his prayer. The statues of the envoys who had come to solicit him were yet to be seen in the Eakeium, or sacred edifice of Eakus, in the time of Pausanias: and the Athenian Isocrates, in his eulogy of Evagoras, the despot of Salamis in Cyprus (who traced his descent through Teukrus to Eakus), enlarges upon this signal miracle, recounted and believed by other Greeks as well as by the Aeginetans, as a proof both of the great qualities and of the divine favor and patronage displayed in the career of the Eakids. Eakus was also employed to aid Poseidon and Apollo in building the walls of Troy.

Peleus and Telamom, the sons of Eakus, contracting a jealousy of their bastard brother, Phokus, in consequence of his eminent skill in gymnastic contests, conspired to put him to death. Telamon flung his quoit at him while they were playing together, and Peleus dispatched him by a blow with his hatchet in the back. They then concealed the dead body in a wood, but Eakus, having discovered both the act and the agents, banished the brothers from the island. For both of them eminent destinies were in store.

While we notice the indifference to the moral quality of actions implied in the old Hesiodic legend, when it imputes distinctly and nakedly this proceeding to two of the most admired persons of the heroic world —it is not less instructive to witness the change of feeling which had taken place in the age of Pindar. That warm eulogist of the great Eakid race hangs down his head with shame, and declines to recount, though he is obliged darkly to glance at the cause which forced the pious Eakus to banish his sons from Aegina. It appears that Kallimachus, if we may judge by a short fragment, manifested the same repugnance to mention it.

Telamon retired to Salamis, then ruled by Kychreus, the son of Poseidon and Salamis, who had recently rescued the island from the plague of a terrible serpent. This animal, expelled from Salamis, retired to Eleusis in Attica, where it was received and harbored by the goddess Demeter in her sacred domicile. Kychreus dying childless left his dominion to Telamon, who, marrying Periboea, daughter of Alkathoos, and grand-daughter of Pelops, had for his son the celebrated Ajax. Telamon took part both in the chase of the Kalydonian boar and in the Argonautic expedition: he was also the intimate friend and companion of Heracles, whom he accompanied in his enterprise against the Amazons, and in the attack made with only six ships upon Laomedon, king of Troy. This last enterprise having proved completely successful, Telamon was rewarded by Heracles with the possession of the daughter of Laomedon, Hesione—who bore to him Teukros, the most distinguished archer amidst the host of Agamemnon, and the founder of Salamis in Cyprus.

Peleus went to Pithia, where he married the daughter of Eurytion, son of Aktor, and received from him the third part of his dominions. Taking part in the Kalydonian boar-hunt, he unintentionally killed his father-in-law Eurytion, and was obliged to flee to Iolkos, where he received purification from Akastus, son of Pelias: the danger to which lie became exposed by the calumnious accusations of the enamored wife of Akastus has already been touched upon in a previous section. Peleus also was among the Argonauts; the most memorable event in his life however was his marriage with the sea-goddess Thetis. Zeus and Poseidon had both conceived a violent passion for Thetis. But the former, having been forewarned by Prometheus that Thetis was destined to give birth to a son more powerful than his father, compelled her, much against her own will, to marry Peleus; who, instructed by the intimations of the wise Cheiron, was enabled to seize her on the coast called Sepias in the southern region of Thessaly. She changed her form several times, but Peleus held her fast until she resumed her original appearance, and she was then no longer able to resist. All the gods were present, and brought splendid gifts to these memorable nuptials: Apollo sang with his harp, Poseidon gave to Peleus the immortal horses Xanthus and Balius, and Cheiron presented a formidable spear, cut from an ash-tree on Mount Pelion. We shall have reason hereafter to recognize the value of both these gifts in the exploits of Achilles.

The prominent part assigned to Thetis in the Iliad is well known, and the post-Homeric poets of the Legend of Troy introduced her as actively concurring first to promote the glory, finally to bewail the death of her distinguished son. Peleus, having survived both his son Achilles and his grandson Neoptolemus, is ultimately directed to place himself on the very spot where he had originally seized Thetis, and thither the goddess comes herself to fetch him away, in order that he may exchange the desertion and decrepitude of age for a life of immortality along with the Nereids. The spot was indicated to Xerxes when he marched into Greece by the Ionians who accompanied him, and his magi offered solemn sacrifices to her as well as to the other Nereids, as the presiding goddesses and mistresses of the coast.

Neoptolemus or Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, too young to engage in the commencement of the siege of Troy, comes on the stage after the death of his father as the indispensable and prominent agent in the final capture of the city. He returns victor from Troy, not to Pithia, but to Epirus, bringing with him the captive Andromache, widow of Hector, by whom Molossus is born to him. He himself perishes in the full vigor of life at Delphi by the machinations of Orestes, son of Agamemnon. But his son Molossus —like Fleance, the son of Banquo, in Macbeth—becomes the father of the powerful race of Molossian kings, who played so conspicuous a part during the declining vigor of the Grecian cities, and to whom the title and parentage of Eakids was a source of peculiar pride, identifying them by community of heroic origin with genuine and undisputed Hellenes.

The glories of Ajax, the second grandson of Eakus, before Troy, are surpassed only by those of Achilles. He perishes by his own hand, the victim of an insupportable feeling of humiliation, because a less worthy claimant is allowed to carry off from him the arms of the departed Achilles. His son Philaeus receives the citizenship of Athens, and the gens or deme called Philaidae traced up to him its name and its origin moreover the distinguished Athenians, Miltiades and Thucydides, were regarded as members of this heroic progeny.

Teukrus escaped from the perils of the siege of Troy as well as from those of the voyage homeward, and reached Salamis in safety. But his father Telamon, indignant at his having returned without Ajax, refused to receive him, and compelled him to expatriate. He conducted his followers to Cyprus, where he founded the city of Salamis: his descendant Evagoras was recognized as a Teukrid and as an Eakid even in the time of Isocrates.

Such was the splendid heroic genealogy of the Eakids,—family renowned for military excellence. The Eakeion at Aegina, in which prayer and sacrifice were offered to Eakus, remained in undiminished dignity down to the time of Pausanias. This genealogy connects together various eminent gentes in Achaia Phthioitis, in Aegina, in Salamis, in Cyprus, and amongst the Epirotic Molossians. Whether we are entitled to infer from it that the island of Aegina was originally peopled by Myrmidones from Achaia Phthiotis, as Muller imagines, I will not pretend to affirm. These mythical pedigrees seem to unite together special clans or gentes, rather than the bulk of any community—just as we know that the Athenians generally had no part in the Eakid genealogy, though certain particular Athenian families laid claim to it. The intimate friendship between Achilles and the Opuntian hero Patroclus—and the community of name and frequent conjunction between the Locrian Ajax, son of Oileus, and Ajax, son of Telamon connect the Eakids with Opus and the Opuntian Locrians, in a manner which we have no farther means of explaining. Pindar too represents Menoetius, father of Patroclus, as son of Aktor and Aegina, and therefore maternal brother of Eakus.